There can be many adjustments to adding a new baby to your family – not just for the happy parents, but for pets, too. Dr. Hazel C. Carney, our Feline Medicine & Behavior clinician, has some tips on easing your feline friend into the transition of adding a new family member.
First, you can make some preparations before your baby arrives as even small behavior problems can seem insurmountable once you are sleep deprived.
BEFORE BABY ARRIVES:
Allow the cat to explore the baby’s room and investigate the new clothes, bed, blankets, etc. at its leisure.
Chat with your cat when you are folding baby clothes, setting up baby’s room or preparing baby items. The key is that although your cat will not understand your words, it will detect your good feelings and begin to associate baby stuff with a sense of love and contentment.
Share treats or toys with your cat near the baby’s belongings/room.
Record a baby crying, then randomly play it back to allow the cat to hear this sound coming from various places in the house; gradually increase the loudness of the crying, play it back suddenly without warning. Watch your cat’s reaction–if your kitty startles, talk soothingly to it.
As far as your baby’s room, if you do not want your cat in your baby’s bed, utilize a clean sheet or invest in netting to cover the crib. Also, Dr. Carney says you may want to consider replacing the room door with a screen door. This allows the cat to hear and see the baby but prevents access unless you allow the cat to enter. Remember, only if you are consistent in what you allow a cat to do will the cat be consistent in its behavior.
AFTER BABY COMES HOME:
Time for the reveal and the introductions! As you get settled in, if your cat shows interest, allow him to sniff your baby when the baby is quiet or asleep in your lap.
“Most cats, once they are sure the baby isn’t a threat to their safety, will ignore the baby altogether,” said Dr. Carney. “The more at ease you are, the more at ease the cat will be around the baby. Many cats like to sit near you when you breastfeed an infant because they sense the loving energy.”
A few more tips:
- Try to continue your cat’s routine.
- Spend a bit of quality time with your cat each day–even just a few moments doing something with your cat that was a special activity for the two of you.
- Continue the rituals, mealtimes, play and treats.
“Remember, your cat is a part of your family before the baby; if you ignore the cat, it may learn that only if it “acts up” will it get your attention,” said Dr. Carney. “This may lead to problem behaviors.”
Initially, never leave your cat alone with your baby. Over time you will see how your cat reacts to baby noises, smells, movements, etc.
Once baby is mobile, you will have a few more considerations. You may want to put your cat’s food and water dishes out of reach; this not only keeps baby from snacking on cat foot, it ensures that the cat has a safe place to eat.
In addition, give your cat a safe sleeping place, off the floor, and out of the babies’ reach. Keep your cat’s nails trimmed so it is less likely to accidently scratch your child.
If you have any questions or concerns about your cat behavior, please contact us at WestVet for a consultation with Dr. Carney.